When "It happens" we can help. Free phone consultation. Make the call today: 972-559-4548

When "It Happens" we can help. We will be happy to discuss your situation. The phone consultation is free so make the call today: 972-559-4548

State Bar of Texas

Subscribe to State Bar of Texas feed
News on the Lawyers and Legal Professionals of Texas
Updated: 1 hour 20 min ago

Board of Directors sets agenda for Sept. 25 quarterly meeting

Thu, 09/17/2020 - 19:20

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will receive an update from President Larry McDougal on the Presidential Diversity Plan as well as the Presidential Task Force on Criminal Court Proceedings among other items at the board’s quarterly meeting set to begin at 9 a.m. CDT September 25.

Items on the agenda also include consideration of the 2021-2022 president-elect nominees. The board’s Nominations & Elections Subcommittee has recommended Sara Dysart of San Antonio and Laura Gibson of Houston as candidates. If approved, Dysart and Gibson will appear on the ballot in April 2021 along with any certified petition candidates.

View the full agenda here.

The meeting will be held via videoconference and streamed live on the State Bar’s YouTube page — youtube.com/statebaroftexas.

To sign up to speak during the meeting, please email amy.starnes@texasbar.com or call 800-204-2222, Ext. 1706 (toll free) before 5 p.m. CDT September 24. Please provide the agenda item number you wish to speak on.

Written comments must be received by 5 p.m. CDT September 22 for timely distribution to the board before the meeting. Please submit written comments by email to boardofdirectors@texasbar.com.

Sponsored Content: Don’t Panic: Getting Paid in a Pandemic

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 23:01

Working from home orders and quarantine mandates mean that attorneys have had to adapt their practices to a new normal. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States around March of this year, law practices in many areas of the country were forced to go remote. This (sometimes bumpy) transition raised many concerns for lawyers, top among them being how to get paid by their clients.

What’s more, they needed to figure out how they could ethically and efficiently accept online payments in a manner that was secure and effortless for both the attorney and the client. Above all, attorneys have had to be hyper cognizant of their receivables as well as their billing practices as they streamline their practice and navigate the waters of Corona.

Below we will discuss some tips and best practices for getting paid in the era of COVID-19, as

well as what you can do to increase receivables in your firm.

  1. Potential New Client (“PNC”) Consultations

Generally, a PNC consultation is when a client meets with an attorney for the first time, with the likely outcome being the retaining of said attorney. Some attorneys waive their consultation fee, while others will charge for it (typically the equivalent of an hour of their billable time). Problems begin to arise when the attorney and/or their staff are not clear about how or when this consultation fee gets paid.

Imagine this—a PNC calls a firm and requests a consultation with an attorney. The receptionist does the normal conflict check and schedules the meeting. She also informs the PNC that a consultation fee of $250.00 will be due prior to the meeting, to which the PNC agrees. Fast forward to the day of the consultation—the receptionist forgets to confirm the payment was received, and the attorney takes the meeting without knowing this.

The attorney counsels the PNC for an hour, at the end of which they say goodbye. The receptionist, having realized the fee issue, asks the PNC for payment after the meeting. The PNC claims he was told the consultation was free (not true), or that he only had to pay if he retained the attorney (also not true).

This is a familiar refrain in the legal industry. So, how can an attorney avoid this awkward situation altogether and get paid for the meeting?

TIP:

Always, always, always take the consultation payment up front, prior to the meeting. It should be made clear to the PNC, in writing, that the consultation will not take place unless and until the payment has been confirmed by the firm. Make sure everyone in the firm is made aware of this policy.

COVID-19 TIP:

Many people are limiting their contact with others and are opting for consultations over Zoom, rather than in-person. So, how does the attorney get paid for an initial meeting when the PNC doesn’t want to leave his or her house? The solution would be for the firm to utilize online payments. Prior to the consultation, the firm can simply send an email to the PNC reminding them of the appointment, that the consult fee is due prior to the meeting, and they can click the link below to pay. LawPay gives a firm the ability to copy/paste a link to send to clients that routes them directly to the firm’s payment page.

This gives the client the flexibility to pay without leaving their home, and it lets the attorney confirm payment immediately.

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Tarrant County Bar to host discussion on race and racism in the practice of law

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 16:42

The Tarrant County Bar Association Diversity Committee will host “Let’s Talk About It: Race and Racism in the Practice of Law – Part 1,” at noon on September 24 via Zoom.

The session is part of the SIDE (Striving for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in the Bar) Bar Conversation Series.

The conversation will explore experiences of people of color in legal careers, addressing concepts like microaggressions, code-switching, and unspoken requirements of cultural assimilation; a discussion of the current forms of racism in the legal system, including the impact of past racism on the present; and the role of white privilege in legal education, hiring, business development, and practice.

The discussion will also address how lawyers of the majority community can play a role in the dynamics discussed.

The event is cohosted by the L. Clifford Davis Legal Association and the Black Women Lawyers Association.

Register for the conference at tarrantbar.org/SIDEbar2.

TYLA Director Spotlight: Jeanine Novosad Rispoli

Sat, 09/12/2020 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

Name: Jeanine Novosad Rispoli

Firm: Rispoli Law Firm, PLLC

Area of Law You Practice: Family Law

Position Held in TYLA: President-elect and District 9 Director

How did you get involved in bar service?

I honestly just started going to bar and young lawyer lunch meetings as a way to go to lunch with my husband, Stephen, more often. Once I was there, I realized how much I enjoyed the people and the projects. The more involved I became the more I realized I wasn’t just networking. While local bar involvement definitely helped me get referrals, that was really just a byproduct of building a community of colleagues who are now friends.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why?

This is such a hard question because TYLA has so many amazing projects! I won’t pick favorites, but I will highlight two that have special places in my heart.

Texas Courts for Texas Veterans was my first major TYLA project, and I absolutely loved getting to know my fellow new directors better throughout the project. Everyone involved put so much passion and talent into TCTV, and I think we were all just humbled and grateful to work on it with Immediate Past President Victor Flores. The video testimonials can still make me emotional, even though we all watched them way too much in the editing process!

The testimonials on the Attorney Wellness website also still make me emotional after repeat viewings because they are so honest and powerful. I encourage anyone to spend some time at http://texaslawyercare.tyla.org to learn more about caring for your well-being and to be reminded that you aren’t alone.

What do you do in your spare time?

Stephen and I have been walking our lab, Khaleesi, even more during the pandemic, and we have really enjoyed finding new places around Waco to walk. I love reading books about and/or by strong women, especially First: Sandra Day O’Connor, by Evan Thomas, My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, by Tilar J Mazzeo.

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress?

The guidance given on an airplane is just as relevant in our daily lives: remember that you need to put your oxygen mask on before you can help others. During the pandemic, I haven’t been able to do all of the same activities that help me manage stress and well-being, but sometimes getting creative has been more fun. I am now a foam roller convert, new superfan of the Calm app, and I encourage everyone I know to take advantage of virtual counseling. Seriously, you can now go to counseling in yoga pants, with your pet, without leaving your home or office.

What is a piece of advice you would give new lawyers or law students?

Check out all the resources on https://tyla.org/ and join your young lawyers association! There are awesome young lawyers in your community and they could become some of your best friends and mentors!

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?

I love my Peloton spin bike, but I don’t know how to ride a real bicycle. I plan to complete the bike portion of the TYLA Virtual Triathlon (see https://tyla.org/virtual-triathlon/) in the comfort of my own air-conditioned home office/workout room.

Anything else that you wish to share?

In both pre-pandemic and pandemic times, I’ve heard from so many people who feel alone. Whatever you are going through, there are people out there who are in the same struggle and who want to help you. Asking for help is not only brave, but you may find that you help the other person just as much as they help you. If there’s a way I can help you, I hope you’ll email me at Jeanine@RispoliLawFirm.com.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman will discuss the law and journey to the bench in new ‘Lady Justice’ Podcast Series

Fri, 09/11/2020 - 10:05

The “Lady Justice: Women of the Court” podcast will feature Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack of Michigan, and Justice Beth Walker of West Virginia.

In a press release, Justice Guzman describes the podcast as “an exciting opportunity to enhance the public’s understanding about the law in a way that is accessible, informative, and engaging.”

The Lady Justice podcast will focus on our nation’s state courts where more than 90% of cases are heard. The first episode, which premieres on Constitution Day, September 17, will be about state constitutions and how they differ from each other and the U.S. Constitution.

“Trust and confidence in the courts depends on a broader public awareness of the justice system and how it affects all our lives,” Texas Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht said in a press release. “This podcast provides unique insights into the system as seen through the eyes of four national leaders on state supreme courts.”

Residents of the United States all live under the federal constitution, but states also have their own constitutions that govern the daily lives of their residents. Some were adopted more than a century ago while others are only a few decades old. In some states, citizens are granted the power to amend or revise the state constitution while in other states that is not possible.

“As each justice discusses the characteristics of her state’s own constitution, we learn about these differences,” said Justice Wood, who will lead the discussion on the podcast.

The next episode will explore each justice’s journey to the state supreme court and personal experiences in law and on the bench. “Only 5% of U.S. attorneys are Hispanic and about 2% are Latina, so my perspective is borne of the unique experiences of an underrepresented group of professionals,” Justice Guzman said.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, made civics education her enduring legacy, and the Lady Justice podcasters are proud to contribute to her mission of educating, encouraging, and inspiring on matters of import to the public and practicing lawyers.

The podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and in other podcasting apps. It can also be found at: https://ladyjustice.podbean.com/. Trailers for the inaugural episode are available now for public access.

This new podcast series was produced by the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Public Education Program.

State Bar of Texas Board Update: September 10, 2020

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 18:39

Editor’s note: The State Bar of Texas sent the following message to members on September 10.

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors met September 10 to follow up on items pending from the July 27 special-called board meeting.

Task Force and Workgroup Rosters

The board approved rosters for two groups created at the July 27 meeting. The 15-member will study and propose actions to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the administration of justice and the practice of law. The 13-member will consider the diversity and inclusion suggestions submitted in the written and oral comments presented to the board in July.

ABA Model Rule 8.4(g)

In a procedural vote, the board referred to a board committee for study, an action that was requested by State Bar members at the July 27 meeting. The board’s Discipline and Client Attorney Assistance Program (DCAAP) Committee will study the model rule—along with the existing and the public input submitted before and during the board meeting—and report back to the board its recommendations, if any, at a future meeting.

Tabled Motion and New Actions

Director Alistair Dawson, of Houston, withdrew his motion, tabled at the July meeting, to limit the spokesperson duties of the State Bar president following the board’s consultation with legal counsel. Dawson then made the following two motions that were approved by the board.

The board voted to direct its Policy Manual Subcommittee to study options and return at a future meeting with recommendations for:

  • a code of conduct to be followed by officers and directors, and
  • changes to the board policy manual or State Bar rules that could enable the board to impeach, remove from office, suspend, or take other disciplinary action against officers and directors.

Learn More

To review the task force and workgroup rosters and other materials from the September 10 meeting, go . If you missed the email update on the July 27 meeting, go to read a summary of the board’s actions from that meeting. Watch recordings of both meetings on the .

Thanks and Looking Ahead

The State Bar values the many comments provided by Texas lawyers and members of the public and will carefully consider all viewpoints presented at the special-called board meetings.

The board will hold its regularly scheduled quarterly meeting at 9 a.m. CDT September 25. The agenda will be posted at least seven days prior to the meeting.

TBLS seeks comments on new aviation law specialty area

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 09:04

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is in the process of determining whether to recommend the adoption of a new specialty area in aviation law to the Texas Supreme Court and is seeking public comment.

The application for recognition is supported by the State Bar of Texas Aviation Law Section and more than 100 Texas attorneys who have expressed strong interest in seeking board certification for aviation law.

Aviation law deals with all aspects of ownership, maintenance, and use of aircraft, spacecraft, airports, airspace, and outer space. The proposed standards for attorney certification in aviation law are posted on the TBLS website.

Comments can be submitted to tbls@texasbar.com. The deadline for public comments is October 5.

SMU, University of Houston to host Black Lawyers Matter virtual conference

Tue, 09/08/2020 - 12:29

The University of Houston Law Center and SMU Dedman School of Law will host a virtual conference from 8:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. October 30 titled “Black Lawyers Matter: Strategies to Enhance Diversity and Inclusion.”

The keynote speaker for the event will be David B. Wilkins, the Lester Kissel Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, vice dean for global initiatives in the legal profession, and faculty director of the Center on the Legal Profession and the Center for Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry.

Topics to be discussed during the conference include ways to increase the number of Black students applying for law school; how to support historically Black law schools; and how to increase hiring, retention, and success of Black attorneys in the legal profession.

The opening speaker of the conference will be Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Registration for the event is currently open. For information on the current schedule and list of speakers, go to law.uh.edu/blmc/agenda.asp.

Conference co-sponsors are Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; the American Bar Association; the Association of American Law Schools; the Austin Bar Association; the Dallas Bar Association; Dentons; the Houston Bar Association; the Houston Young Lawyers Association; Baker Botts; Baylor Law School; Beck | Redden; Blank Rome; Bracewell; Haynes Boone; Hunton Andrews Kurth; the Law School Admission Council; the Tarrant County Bar Association; Texas A&M University School of Law; UNT Dallas College of Law; South Texas College of Law Houston; St. Mary’s University School of Law; Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law; McDowell Hetherington; the San Antonio Bar Association; the University of Texas School of Law; the Asian American Bar Association of Houston; Winstead; J.L. Turner Legal Association; Texas Tech University School of Law; the Middle Eastern Bar Association of Texas; the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers; Norton Rose Fulbright; and Vinson Elkins.

State Bar president’s message on federal eviction moratorium, CLE, other resources

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 16:55

Editor’s note: State Bar President Larry McDougal sent the following message to all members on Thursday.

Dear Member,

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every part of our lives, affecting our families, our mental and physical well-being, and our economy. Millions of Texans have lost their jobs or had their incomes impacted by the economic fallout.

As a public health protection measure, the federal government on Tuesday announced a nationwide eviction moratorium to take effect September 4 that appears to protect eligible renters from eviction for nonpayment of rent until December 31. You can read the order by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and Human Services .

While the government’s action may temporarily halt certain evictions until the end of the year, a potential eviction crisis still looms in the distance. As a result, the State Bar of Texas has collected resources for attorneys around the state to access and share with those in need.

CLE Resources

The following free informational videos about COVID-19 and tenant/landlord issues can help attorneys learn more about the subject and assist in the future by representing clients facing eviction. See below for CLE details.

Educational Resources for the Public

The State Bar has gathered online resources designed to educate the public on tenant/landlord issues, including eviction rights and responsibilities and the federal order. The collection can be found at .

Legal Services Hotline and Referral Directory

Low-income individuals or families needing legal assistance can be directed to the State Bar’s Disaster Legal Services Hotline at 800-504-7030. The hotline—answered in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese—connects callers to legal aid agencies in their area where attorneys can review the individual circumstances and provide limited legal assistance.

The Legal Access Division’s 2019-2020 Referral Directory of Legal Services and Other Resources for Low-Income Texans offers a searchable county-by-county breakdown of legal and other services across Texas. It can be found at .

Social Services

Individuals needing food assistance or other social services can call 2-1-1 to find a list of services in their area. The 2-1-1 community information service is available 24 hours a day. People can also access 2-1-1 Texas online at to search via topic such as food, health, housing, and more.

Volunteering

The State Bar of Texas has a longstanding commitment to fostering a culture of pro bono service in our state.  is your source for all things pro bono. Volunteering to help Texas residents with their legal needs—in any practice area—frees up lawyers at the state’s legal aid agencies to assist more people. At Pro Bono Texas you can find the right volunteer opportunity for you, as well as mentors to guide you and resources to succeed.

Sincerely,

Larry McDougal

State Bar of Texas President

In Memoriam – August 2020

Thu, 09/03/2020 - 16:15

The State Bar of Texas’ Membership Department was informed in August 2020 of the deaths of these members. We join the officers and directors of the State Bar in expressing our deepest sympathy.

Jerry L. Beane, 76, of Hideaway, died July 31, 2020. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
Philip M. Blair, 94, of Bryan, died June 25, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
Berry D. Bowen, 67, of Houston, died July 21, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1979.
Larry Palmer Boyd, 61, of Houston, died July 18, 2020. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
David Lee Bridges, 65, of Fate, died July 25, 2020. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1984.
Lee J. Brookshire Jr., 84, of Fort Worth, died July 19, 2020. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1965.
John P. Burke Jr., 78, of San Marcos, died July 16, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
Kline D. Busbee Jr., 87, of Dallas, died April 13, 2020. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1962.
Gary F. Bushell, 78, of Lago Vista, died July 15, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
James F. Chapman, 99, of San Antonio, died July 27, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Missouri School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
Celeste Chiaramonte, 59, of Kingwood, died February 7, 2020. She received her law degree from the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2002.
Otis Cohn Jr., 62, of Cleveland, died March 6, 2020. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1990.
Bruce A. Coplen, 63, of Houston, died July 12, 2020. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
John Curtis, 68, of Fredericksburg, died June 7, 2020. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
David B. Dickinson, 73, of Houston, died August 5, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
Clarence E. Eriksen, 76, of Houston, died July 20, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
Rae Ann Fichtner, 90, of Dallas, died July 15, 2020. She received her law degree from George Washington University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1952.
Richard J. Fritz, 92, of Victoria, died March 8, 2020. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1959.
Ernesto Gonzales, 62, of Harlingen, died July 18, 2017. He received his law degree from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
Charles Q. Grimm, 71, of Garland, died July 26, 2020. He received his law degree from Memphis State University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1984.
Paul Michael Guinn, 46, of Austin, died July 28, 2020. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1999.
Arthur R. Hadden, 91, of Highland Village, died July 20, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1957.
Haroldeen Hartsfield, 73, of New York, New York, died August 6, 2020. She received her law degree from Drake University Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
William B. Hilgers, 95, of Austin, died July 17, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
Lev Hunt, 95, of Corpus Christi, died May 20, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
Thaddeus T. Hutcheson Jr., 79, of Houston, died July 11, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
Jerome P. Lipnick, 76, of Houston, died July 20, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970.
Patrick E. Mitchell, 63, of Dallas, died August 1, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
Frederick J. Morton, 84, of El Paso, died May 26, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1958.
Michael E. Nugent, 76, of Dallas, died April 5, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
Byron Pettitt Jr., 76, of Comfort, died July 12, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970.
Bruce H. Rogers, 63, of Grand Prairie, died March 29, 2020. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1994.
Charles E. Schuerenberg, 76, of Holly Lake Ranch, died July 17, 2020. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
Robert S. Simmons, 78, of Cypress, died July 22, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
Kenneth M. Slack, 72, of South Houston, died April 26, 2020. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
Joe C. Spurlock II, 82, of Colleyville, died June 9, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1962.
Stephen D. Susman, 79, of Houston, died July 14, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1965.
Seferino Islas Trevino Jr., 73, of Harlingen, died July 23, 2020. He received his law degree from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983.
Guillermo Vega, 71, of Brownsville, died July 28, 2020. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.

If you would like to have a memorial for a loved one published in the Texas Bar Journal, please go to texasbar.com/memorials. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Bar Journal at 512-427-1701 or toll-free at 800-204-2222, ext. 1701.

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson serves as first woman Texas Access to Justice Foundation board chair

Wed, 09/02/2020 - 17:30

 

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson, who began her three-year term as TAJF’s board chair on September 1, is the first woman to hold the title.

“Justice Hankinson is a trailblazer, and I am proud to welcome her as the foundation’s new board chair. Her extensive experience and expertise will materially advance the foundation’s mission of helping to ensure disadvantaged Texans have access to legal aid for their essential civil legal needs,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman said in a press release. “Justice Hankinson’s leadership, innovative ideas, and dedication will be invaluable to our incredibly talented board of directors. I was honored to work closely with Richard L. Tate, immediate past board chair, who took the foundation to new levels during his tenure, and I look forward to working with his equally committed successor.”

Hankinson, the board’s longtime vice chair, spearheaded the creation of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which partners with the foundation to expand legal aid opportunities for Texans. The board includes 13 attorney and public members—seven appointed by the Texas Supreme Court and six by the State Bar of Texas.

She began work on the board in 2003 and became vice chair in 2008 before being named this year as the fifth chair.

“It’s an honor to be able to serve the Texas legal aid community as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation board,” Hankinson said in a press release. “Throughout my career, I have advocated for disadvantaged Texans and have supported the successes of civil legal aid organizations across the state. I am eager and proud to now help guide the foundation in its mission of equal justice for all.”

Additionally, Houston attorney Travis Torrence was added to the foundation’s board of directors. As leader of the Global Litigation Bankruptcy & Credit Team at Shell Oil Company, he manages a team of attorneys and legal support professionals handling bankruptcy and credit legal issues for all of the company’s business units in the U.S. and Canada. Torrence, in his time as a Fulbright & Jaworski senior associate, chaired the Houston office’s Recruiting Committee and helped found the firm’s Diversity Advisory Council. He also clerked for Judge Edward C. Prado, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Torrence is a member of boards and councils at Yale Law School Fund Board and Tulane University’s School of Liberal Arts and the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. At the State Bar of Texas, he was a member of the board of directors’ Executive Committee.

“Travis is a tremendous talent in both law and life,” Hankinson said in a press release. “He brings a wealth of legal knowledge and a giving and generous spirit to the board, and we are honored to have his perspective in guiding the foundation in its mission of ensuring access to justice for all Texans.”

For more information about the Texas Access to Foundation, go to tajf.org.

State Bar board to consider updated president-elect recommendations at September 25 meeting

Tue, 09/01/2020 - 11:56

Editor’s Note: The State Bar of Texas sent to following message to members on September 1.

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors’ Nominations and Elections Subcommittee voted to recommend the nomination of Sara E. Dysart of San Antonio as a candidate for 2021-2022 State Bar president-elect, after E. Leon Carter of Dallas withdrew his name from consideration.

Dysart joins Laura Gibson of Houston as the subcommittee’s recommended president-elect nominees. The State Bar board will consider the recommendations during its virtual meeting on September 25, which will be broadcast at . If the board approves their nominations, Dysart and Gibson would appear on the ballot in April 2021 along with any certified petition candidates.

Potential petition candidates can begin collecting signatures on September 1, 2020, and have until March 1, 2021, to submit their nominating petitions to the State Bar for certification. For information on how to run for president-elect, go .

This year, the subcommittee considered candidates from metropolitan counties, in compliance with State Bar rules. Click the names below to read the potential nominees’ interest letters to the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee.

Nominations Sought for At-Large Director

The State Bar of Texas is accepting nominations through December 1 for an at-large director position on the board of directors. Four at-large positions are appointed by the State Bar president subject to board confirmation. One position will become vacant in 2021. At-large directors serve three-year terms. The term begins June 17, 2021.

In making the appointments, the president is required to appoint directors who demonstrate knowledge gained from experience in the legal profession and community necessary to ensure the board represents the interests of attorneys from the varied backgrounds that compose the membership of the State Bar of Texas.

For information or to submit a nomination, go to .

Report details Texas jury trials during COVID-19 pandemic

Mon, 08/31/2020 - 16:50

Editor’s Note: The Office of Court Administration issued the following news release on August 31.

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) released its report on Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic today as required by the Supreme Court of Texas’ Twenty-Second Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster. The report contains observations from the 20 jury trials held in the state since March 2020, including details from the nation’s first virtual criminal jury trial.

“A hallmark of our justice system is the right to a jury trial,” said Nathan L. Hecht, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. “The pandemic has challenged our ability to safely deliver on that promise, but through the efforts of many Texas judges, clerks, court staff, and attorneys over the past few months, today we have a roadmap to resuming those jury trials, even if that roadmap will be restricted to ensure the health and safety of the public. My colleagues and I look forward to reviewing the recommendations made by OCA today.”

Prior to the pandemic, Texas courts averaged 186 jury trials per week. However, jury trials have been suspended through October 1 by the Supreme Court of Texas except for in limited cases assisted by OCA and the Regional Presiding Judges.

“Conducting jury trials during the pandemic requires a tremendous amount of planning from all participants including judges, clerks, attorneys, and court staff,” said David Slayton, Administrative Director of the Texas Office of Court Administration. “Going to court often isn’t a choice; it’s a requirement. I am so proud of the professionalism and attention to detail that the judiciary has taken to keep all Texans safe as they engage with our courts throughout the state.”

The report outlines 11 recommendations for continuing to safely conduct jury proceedings moving forward. Recommendations include:

  • Limiting jury proceedings to district and county courts only through December 31.
  • Allowing all courts to conduct virtual jury proceedings except that in jailable criminal jury trials, virtual jury proceedings should only occur with appropriate waivers and consent of the defendant and prosecutor made on the record.
  • Requiring the local administrative district judge and presiding judge of a municipal court to submit jury plans for counties and cities consistent with guidelines for conducting jury trial proceedings issued by OCA.
  • Requiring consultation with a local health authority not more than five days prior to the jury proceeding to verify local health conditions and plan precautions are appropriate for the trial to proceed.

Despite the limited jury trials occurring throughout the state, Texas judges’ have been busy keeping justice moving forward through online hearings via Zoom. Since March 2020, judges have held an estimated 440,000 remote hearings, with more than 1.3 million participants, lasting almost 1 million hours during the 6-month period.

Robert Galloway to lead South Texas College of Law Houston’s Advocacy program

Fri, 08/28/2020 - 14:23

Robert Galloway, recently named the inaugural president of the National Association of Legal Advocacy Educators, will lead South Texas College of Law Houston’s Advocacy program.

“I’m pleased that Rob Galloway will be leading our exceptional Advocacy program,” said Michael F. Barry, president and dean of STCL Houston, in a press release. “A pillar of our distinguished program, Rob recently spearheaded a new set of standards applicable to remote advocacy competitions—all designed to promote fairness, consistency, and clear expectations for advocates in our new virtual world. I thank Rob for his leadership and for ensuring that South Texas College of Law Houston remains a national leader in advocacy.”

A product of the South Texas Advocacy program, Galloway was a member of the South Texas Law Review and the winning team at the State Moot Court Competition when he was in law school. He chaired the Board of Advocates, received the Dean’s Outstanding Advocate Award, and was inducted into the Order of the Barristers.

Galloway returned to STCL Houston in 1992 as an adjunct professor, where he then became an assistant professor of clinical studies and associate director of the Advocacy program under the leadership of “Coach” T. Gerald Treece, who died in July. He has coached teams that won 40 national championships, 44 regional championships, and eight state championships.

“I’m fortunate to have had a 30-year master class in how to run this program effectively,” Galloway said. “Every day for three decades, I spoke to Dean Treece about every aspect of the program. In my last conversation with him, he asked about our teams and how we were going to compete on a computer. Using his trademark phrase, he told me to ‘keep the wagons moving.’”

State Bar Board of Directors publishes agenda for Sept. 10 special meeting

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 17:19

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m. on September 10 in a special meeting to consider a tabled motion to restrict the spokesperson duties of the bar’s president among other matters.

The agenda for the meeting also contains items to:

  • Consider and discuss referral of ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) to the Board of Directors’ Discipline and Client Attorney Assistance Program (DCAAP) Committee for study and recommendation
  • Consider and discuss approval of roster of the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Consider and discuss approval of roster of Board workgroup to review public and member input on diversity and inclusion issues

The full agenda can be viewed here.

The meeting will occur via videoconference and be broadcast live on the State Bar’s YouTube page. Individuals who wish to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting must sign up before 5 p.m. CDT Wednesday, September 9 by emailing amy.starnes@texasbar.com or by calling 800-204-2222 ext. 1706. Written comments to the board may be sent to boardofdirectors@texabar.com and must be received by 5 p.m. CDT September 3 for timely distribution to the board members.

The scheduling of the special meeting was among the action items passed at a July 27 special board meeting. Read more about the July 27 action items here.

Free legal assistance available for low-income individuals affected by Hurricane Laura

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 18:11

Due to potentially dangerous and destructive conditions predicted in advance of Hurricane Laura’s landfall, the State Bar of Texas wants Southeast Texas residents to know free legal resources are available to low-income individuals affected by disasters.

A toll-free disaster legal services hotline—800-504-7030—puts callers in touch with legal aid providers in their area who can help with:

  • Assistance securing government benefits as they are made available;
  • Assistance with life, medical, and property insurance claims;
  • Help with home repair contracts and contractors;
  • Replacement of wills and other important legal documents lost or destroyed in the disaster;
  • Consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process;
  • Counseling on landlord-tenant problems and other matters.

The hotline can assist callers in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with lawyers who can provide free, limited legal help.

Additional disaster recovery resources are available at texaslawhelp.orglonestarlegal.blog/services/disaster-relieftrla.org/disaster-resources, and texasbar.com/disaster.

The State Bar reminds the public that in many cases it is a crime in Texas for a lawyer or someone representing a lawyer to contact a person for purposes of legal representation if the person has not first requested the call or personal visit. The contact is not illegal if the attorney is not seeking payment or has a preexisting professional-client or family relationship with the person being contacted. If you witness something you believe to be improper solicitation, or barratry, please get the name and phone number of the person making contact and report it to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office via email at CDCinfo@texasbar.com or toll free at 866-224-5999.

Texas law librarian and legal technologist named to Fastcase 50 list of top innovators

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 11:23

A Texas law librarian and legal technologist was included in the annual Fastcase 50 list, which honors top innovators in the legal field.

Andre Davison, the research technology manager at Blank Rome in Houston, was named to the list alongside other attorneys, professors, and entrepreneurs from around the world.

He was honored for introducing and maintaining information resources, both purchased and internally developed, especially to the firm’s intellectual property practice. In 2019, Davison was honored as the winner of the third annual American Association of Law Libraries Tournament for his project on seamless access to secondary sources.

He is active in Blank Rome’s diversity and inclusion efforts and was honored with the firm’s Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones Diversity Award. Davison was recently elected vice chair/chair-elect of the newly constituted Black Law Librarians Special Interest Section of AALL. He previously served as president of the Houston Area Law Librarians during the 2019-2020 year and is currently a member of the AALL Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals Special Interest Section executive board.

Stories of Recovery: We are all in this together

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 10:48

Editor’s note: TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance use or mental health issues. Call or text TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) or find more information at tlaphelps.org.

Every Friday, I drove thirty minutes to the liquor store to purchase my week’s libations: a handle (1.75-liter bottle) of Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whiskey, a handle of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, a handle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, and four or five bottles of red wine. If money was tight, I bought a handle of Famous Grouse Finest Scotch Whiskey, a handle of Smirnoff Red Label No. 21 Vodka, a handle of Ezra Brooks Bourbon Whiskey, and a box of red wine. One way or another, I found a way to make the trip and buy alcohol. My visits’ regularity earned me a Christmas gift of a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue from the liquor store owner, with the following words etched on the bottle, “Merry Christmas, from X Liquor Store, For Consumption, Not Collection.” I had mixed emotions about the gift.

The owner of a house I couldn’t afford and a solo law practice that wouldn’t make enough money, my nightly routine consisted of going home from work, selecting the spirit du jour, and drinking until I woke up in my chair. From there, the bathroom, bed, shower, breakfast, and back to the office was my routine. My beautiful wife and wonderful teenage children took up the rest of my time. Between the stress of the bills at home, the bills at work, the clients, the lawyers, and family issues, my only relief appeared about the third or fourth drink. The world became bearable, and I became fun for my family. A computer game called World of Warcraft sucked two years out of my life. When I got on the computer, put on the headset, and started drinking, I was in another reality. The escape allowed me to get up and get back on the hamster wheel another day.

In 2012, I had to stop four times to keep from passing out between my car and the courtroom.  After the hearing, I made the four stops back to my car and drove to my family doctor. The doctor made a nurse escort me across the street for admission into the ICU with fluid on my lungs. The initial diagnosis was a pulmonary embolism. They didn’t think I was going to make it out of the hospital. After answering that my affairs were in order and receiving visits from friends and family I haven’t seen in years, I began to think I wasn’t going to make it out either. I was 47 and weighed 470 pounds.

I made it out with two purposes in life—get my kids to eighteen and get my wife some kind of pension. I knew I was on borrowed time. I shut down my practice and went to work for the county prosecuting tickets in the justice courts. I’ve had no alcohol since the night before I went into the hospital in 2012. I worked alcohol-free for five years but never addressed my weight. In 2017, I finally decided to approach the elephant in the room and made weight loss and exercise priorities. I am currently down 228 pounds and have maintained a 200-pound weight loss for two years. My kids are grown, two with college degrees and a third to graduate from the University of Texas next spring. I am working the 12-step program through Overeaters Anonymous, and I vest in the county retirement system in October.

You can change your life and improve your story, but you can’t do it alone. Change starts by realizing you have a problem and by asking for help. We are all in this together. You can do it.

University of Houston receives $1 million for new John M. O’Quinn Law Building

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 09:06

The University of Houston received a $1 million gift from alumnus Danny M. Sheena, of Sheena Law Firm, to support construction of the new John M. O’Quinn Law Building.

In recognition of the gift, the planned moot courtroom and dividable classroom space will be named the Danny M. Sheena Courtroom; Danny M. Sheena Classroom; and Megan D. Sheena Classroom, named for Sheena’s daughter Megan, a current student at the University of Houston Law Center.

The courtroom will have 6,200-square feet of floor space with seating for 220 people and will provide a forum for peers, judges, lawyers, and practitioners to convene for legal and policy symposia, conferences, and social events. The courtroom and dividable classroom will include state-of-the-art technology and audio-visual systems for courtroom proceedings, lectures, broadcasts, and recordings.

“The existing UH Law Center was built over 50 years ago at a time when no computers or cellphones existed. I remember studying for my final exams in the underground study areas and thinking of the structural components that went into designing the Law Center,” said Sheena in a news release. “As a UH engineering and Law Center graduate, I am happy that I can be a part of the new UH Law Center state-of-the-art building that will continue to provide students with an excellent legal education.”

Nearly $25 million has been raised through private philanthropy to help fund the new building. Construction of the $93 million John M. O’Quinn Law Building will begin in the fall.

For more about the University of Houston Law Center, go to law.uh.edu.

TYLA Director Spotlight: Sara Anne Giddings

Sat, 08/22/2020 - 23:01

Editor’s Note: In this blog series, we are getting to know the members of the Texas Young Lawyers Association Board of Directors. TYLA, commonly called the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, works to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public. All TYLA programs are accomplished through the volunteer efforts of its board and committee members, with the cooperation of local affiliate young lawyers associations. Learn more at tyla.org.

Name:  Sara Anne Giddings

Firm:  Law Offices of Trent Nichols, PLLC

Area of Law You Practice: Tax, Estate Planning and Probate, Business

Position Held in TYLA:  Chair-elect

How did you get involved in bar service? When I was a first-year lawyer in Corpus Christi, Dick King and Omar Leal encouraged me to get involved with the Corpus Christi Young Lawyers Association. I fell in love with bar service and have been actively involved in bar service in every legal community that I have practiced in. Bar service is something that has truly changed my life, and I am so glad that I have the opportunity to continue to serve TYLA as chair-elect.

What is your favorite TYLA project and why? Picking just one is too hard. I have had the privilege of working on several fantastic projects during my time on TYLA. Here are a few of my favorites:

I Was the First. You Can Be a Lawyer Too! (See http://iwasthefirst.tyla.org/.) This project is one that certainly inspires me as the first lawyer in my family. It is amazing to see all of the incredible things that these first-generation lawyers accomplished. I share this project with anyone interested in learning more about the law.

Teach Safe. Learn Safe. Be Safe. (See http://teachsafe.tyla.org/.) I am blessed to come from a family of educators. My mother, who was a huge help in creating this website, has been teaching for 42 years! This website is truly a hub—it relates to the way that the law and education intersect and is a great resource for teachers, administrators, and parents. I have had the honor of teaching a course based on this website and can say that it is an invaluable resource created by TYLA.

Attorney Wellness Website. (See http://texaslawyercare.tyla.org/.) Anyone who knows me well knows that I am passionate about attorney wellness. It is important that we break the silence and the stigma surrounding mental illness. This website provides powerful testimonies on attorney wellness and resources for achieving well-being. Take five minutes today and check it out.

What tips can you give to other attorneys to manage stress? Don’t forget to make yourself a priority. It is easy to make our clients, our friends, and our family a priority and forget all about ourselves. It is important that you treat yourself as your most important client. When I make myself a priority, my clients, friends, and family receive a much better version of me and I can be the best advocate for them.

What is a piece of advice you would give new lawyers or law students? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. More likely than not, another lawyer has faced the same issue that you are facing.

What do you do in your spare time? I enjoying spending time with my family and friends, eating good food, and exploring the world we live in. I’m also a huge sports fan, and I spend many hours cheering on the Texas Longhorns, Astros, and Spurs.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you? I am a huge Peanuts fan. I have several Peanuts collectibles and I’m always on the lookout for the next great addition. My favorite Peanut is Peppermint Patty.

Anything else you wish to share? Although it may feel like it at times, you are not alone. It is important that we continue to have difficult conversations, reach out to others, and get help. If you ever need to talk or if I can be of any assistance, feel free to email me at sara@trentnicholslaw.com.

Pages